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6 (Deservedly) Famous New Orleans Restaurants

Shrimp and Grits at Commander's Palace

There are plenty of New Orleans restaurants that have gained international fame through guidebooks, TV, movies, or their connection with a celebrity chef. These particular eateries are worth all the buzz, and more!

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New Orleans Travel Spotlight10

French Quarter Festival 2014 Starts Today

Thursday April 10, 2014

Kermit Ruffins at the Freret Street Festival, 2009

The French Quarter Festival is on!

Locals and tourists alike are flocking to the French Quarter this (long) weekend to catch over 1400 regional musicians playing on 21 stages tucked in every imaginable corner of the historic neighborhood. The best part? It's free!

The lineup is, admittedly, more than a little bit overwhelming, so your best bet is to just wander around the neighborhood and follow your ears. Still, if you want to catch some New Orleans legends, do make a beeline for Irma Thomas (today at 2:15 on the Abita Beer Stage in Woldenberg Park), Dr. John and the Night Trippers (Friday at 4:00 on the Abita Beer Stage), Russell Batiste & Friends with the Wild Tchoupitoulas featuring Jason Neville (Saturday at 2:00 on the GE Capital/New Orleans Tech Big River Stage, in the Audubon Aquarium plaza), and Big Chief Bo Dollis, Jr. and the Wild Magnolias (Saturday at 7:15 on the GE Capital/New Orleans Tech Big River Stage).

And that's just the tip of the iceberg, of course. Also among my local favorites: Bonerama (5:30 today, Abita Beer Stage), Corey Ledet (3:45 today, at the Chevron Cajun/Zydeco Showcase by the Bienville Statue on N. Peters St.), Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers (2:15 Friday, Abita Beer Stage), George Porter, Jr. (7:15 Friday, GE Capital/New Orleans Tech River Stage), The Lost Bayou Ramblers (2:00 Saturday, Chevron Cajun/Zydeco Showcase), Charmaine Neville (3:45 Saturday, Capital One Bank Jackson Square Stage), The Believers (Noon Sunday, BMI Songwriters Stage at the Historic New Orleans Collection), and Feufollet (3:30 Sunday, Chevron Cajun/Zydeco Showcase).

Plus about a hundred others. My cup runneth over, y'all.

The festival is free, but part of the deal is that you're not supposed to bring your own food into the scene, because food vendors provide much-needed income for the event. This is hardly a struggle, though, as many of the best restaurants and caterers in town are selling food, all of which is very reasonably-priced, especially by festivals standards.

In fact, the French Quarter Festival is a great place to get a sampling from many of New Orleans' best restaurants, without shelling out for a full sit-down service. Try the shrimp remoulade from Galatoire's for $8, the roast beef po-boy with horseradish cream from Boucherie for $5, a smoked duck and mushroom strudel from Broussard's for $7, fish tacos from GW Fins for $3, or a beef debris po-boy with truffle slaw from Restaurant R'evolution for $8. 

Okay, now how fast can you run? 

What are you most excited to hear and/or eat at this weekend's festival? Leave a comment and let us know!

Kermit Ruffins Photo © Derek Bridges / Creative Commons via Flickr

Welcome, WrestleManiacs!

Saturday April 5, 2014

Mercedes-Benz Superdome

New Orleans is aswarm with fans of the WWE this weekend. They're in town for WrestleMania XXX, which takes place at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday, April 6th. I admit that I don't know a lot about wrestling, but even I know that WrestleMania is a big deal.

If you're one of the thousands upon thousands of fans who've come to Louisiana to enjoy this event, I encourage you to make sure you take in a little bit of the city outside the Superdome before the events take place. There's so much to do, much of which is beyond Bourbon Street.

If you're feeling fancy, hit up one of our legendary old-line Creole restaurants (I'd particularly recommend trying to squeeze in a lunch at Commander's Palace, one of my favorite New Orleans experiences).

Not so fancy? Well, you've come to the right place. The French Quarter offers up lots of gourmet food on the cheap. If you're feeling adventurous and don't need the pretense of table service, seek out my own favorite po-boy shop, Verti Marte, and try the "All That Jazz" po-boy, dressed. Don't ask, just do it.

Looking to pick up some culture while you're in town? Check out one of our fantastic museums. The WWII Museum is particularly amazing, and there's a great Civil War Photography exhibit on at the New Orleans Museum of Art right now.

Or go see some music! Frenchmen Street is the place to go for live music on any given night of the week, with more than a dozen clubs offering up even more genres of music. Or seek out one of the city's great Cajun and Zydeco venues for music you almost certainly won't hear back at home.

And once you've seen a bit of the city, it's time to check out the main event. I don't have much advice to offer you on that front, but our About.com Pro Wrestling Expert, Eric Cohen, has basically everything you could possibly want to know covered at his WrestleMania Central.  Have a great time and come back soon!

Mercedes-Benz Superdome Image © Megan Romer, 2014

The Streetcars are Broken! What do I Do?

Monday March 31, 2014

St. Charles Streetcar

One of the iconic New Orleans experiences, and one that I recommend to all visitors, is to hop the St. Charles streetcar at Canal Street and ride it all the way out to Carrollton and back. It's about an hour and a half round trip if you stay on the whole time, but you could spend a whole day jumping on and off and exploring some of the gorgeous neighborhoods and quirky hidden gems that are found on and near the streetcar line.

But even just the very act of riding, especially during the warm months when you can open the windows and feel the breeze on your face, is a pleasant experience. The rattling, clattering cars take you past some of the most beautiful domestic architecture in the world, and all for a buck and a quarter. You can't beat it.

At the moment, though, and for the foreseeable future, the streetcar experience is interrupted by some obnoxious but necessary track repair. For 10 or so blocks in the middle of the line (depending on where the construction actually falls and the practicality of starting and stopping streetcars at those points), passengers have to disembark, hop on a bus, and then hop back on the streetcar on the far side. It's a pain, yes, but it's still worth it, and you'll still get most of the streetcar experience.

The RTA claims that they're repairing approximately three blocks of tracks every ten days, which means they should finish by the end of the summer, but I wouldn't recommend counting your chickens before they hatch on that one. Hopefully they're done by the end of the year. Until then, a short shuttle bus ride and we're back in business. Want to know more about riding the St. Charles streetcar line?  Read on: How to Take the Streetcar from the French Quarter to the Garden District... and Beyond

St. Charles Streetcar Image © Jo Jakeman / Creative Commons via Flickr

Louisiana Strawberry Season is in Full Swing

Sunday March 30, 2014

Strawberry Shortcake at Commander's Palace

Winter is officially over in Louisiana, and there's no truer sign of spring around these parts than the arrival of strawberry season. For a few weeks now, our local Rouse's supermarket has proudly boasted a display of Louisiana strawberries -- increasingly fat and red as the days pass by -- and strawberry specialties have found their way on menus all over the state.

And North of New Orleans, in the tiny town of Ponchatoula, which calls itself the Strawberry Capital of the World, they're gearing up for the Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival, which will be taking place on April 11-13, 2014. Alongside strawberry eating contests, sack races, egg tosses, and other small-town festival fun, there'll be live music and strawberry dishes too numerous to count.

If you can't make the Strawberry Festival but happen to be in the area anyway, you can celebrate strawberry season by ordering every single menu item you see that boasts the words "Louisiana strawberries" or "Ponchatoula strawberries" in the description. It doesn't matter what it is, really -- the strawberries are to die for and you can't go wrong.

If you prefer strawberries in their natural state, pick up a pint at the Crescent City Farmers Market, the French Market, or the closest grocery store (as I mentioned, Rouse's is always good for Louisiana produce in season).

If you're really motivated (and in my opinion, you should be), go ahead and seek out some of the town's tastiest strawberry concoctions. For my money, you won't do better than the strawberry shortcake at Commander's Palace (pictured above). Made with fresh Ponchatoula strawberries, lightly macerated in Grand Marnier and sugar, as well as crème Chantilly and buttermilk biscuits, this damn-near-perfect dessert enhances the sweet sunshine-y flavor of the strawberries with just a kick of creaminess. It's about as close as you'll ever get to putting spring itself on a plate.

Image © Megan Romer, 2014

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